I generally write super long reviews, partly because I take a lot of notes whilst watching. But I don’t always feel like taking a whole bunch of notes and in those cases I will be writing these quick reviews for 1001 flicks from now on. They will be far less fully formed and detailed, but hopefully still interesting enough.
It had been a long time between viewings of Grease (1978) for me when the fiancee and I chucked this on a couple of weeks ago. I thought I knew the film pretty well, but aside from some of the better known songs, there was actually a whole lot in here that I had absolutely no recollection of.
The songs are what generally stick in the mind when thinking about Grease or at least they were for me . I remember “Grease Lightning” and some form of ‘supermix’ of all the tracks being played endlessly at high school socials. Events where teenage boys (not me of course) would attempt to sing the John Travolta part from “Summer Lovin” to impress a girl and end up looking like a tool and impressing no one. But watching the film now, it is clear that there a lot more to it than that. For starters, despite most of the actors looking 20 years too old to be in high school, the film quite accurately charts the feelings that high school brings. The desperation to fit in, to retain some sense of originality and to impress the one you like enough to score a date. Refreshingly, the main points in this regard are made not by the portrayal of the new to town, goody two shoes Sandy, but by the suave and cool Danny played famously by John Travolta. He is the one who is not comfortable enough in his own skin to be himself around her. Rather he has to put on a greaser facade so as to save face with his mates. As for the songs though, they still hold up really well and there are a couple of singalong classics in here. That said though, there are a couple of them that I had totally forgotten that are really quite flat and suck a lot of the momentum out of the film.
John Travolta is generally the actor who gets the most credit from this film. Either that, or it just seems that way because he is the one with the most prominent (though spluttering) ongoing career. The best performance though, and the one most integral to the film is from Olivia Newton-John as Sandy. It is her journey that the audience goes on, her conflicting emotions that we rollercoaster along with. And when both characters undergo a metamorphosis at the end, hers is by far the more meaningful of the two. She is changing and embracing the change happily whereas Danny is doing it begrudgingly (the character does most things begrudgingly throughout the film actually). Watching this film with my fiancee was a nicely interactive experience. This is one of those films best watched with a big crowd that is really into it I think, much like Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) in that regard. And I still got that experience even with just the two of us as she sang every word to every song and whacked my arm repeatedly to exclaim “oh my God, coolest car ever”.
Grease is actually a film that holds up better than I thought it would and is much more than some catchy tunes. The depiction of high school here felt pretty relevant to me, even though I attended high school on an entirely different continent, 25 odd years later.
Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny
2014 Progress: 7/101